Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Natural Family Planning: Safe and effective in a happy, healthy, marriage

This week is Natural Family Planning (NFP) awareness week so I figured I would open a potential can of worms (since my audience is NOT exclusively or even mostly Catholic), and write a little post about NFP.  When I became Catholic, I was a married mother of 2 and a contraceptive pill user.  It worked for us.  Really well.  We had spaced our two children roughly how we wanted them spaced.  My husband and I both feared that when I became Catholic the 'birth control thing' was going to be a hard hurdle to get over and we would end up with a dozen kids - back then we were still under the dilution that lots of kids was something other than an awesome thing.   So I came to NFP a bit reluctantly.  My engineer husband, who did not want to still have kids in diapers when he had kids in college, came to the first class even more reluctantly.

Our introduction to NFP was through Janet Smith's "Contraception Why Not" CD.  It is a audio where she lays out the history, science, effectiveness and physical dangers of chemical contraception.   After listening to the CD in the car, my husband arrived home and looked at my pills.  He read the huge warnings that come in the little print and asked me one question "Have we been putting your health at risk just for our convenience?"  He had visions of becoming a widower with 2 kids to care for at home after I died from a blood clot or stroke or some other horrible thing.  I could only respond "yes we have". 

Women taking the pill have twice the risk of developing blood clots (

Risks of ovarian and endometrial cancers are less with the pill, BUT your risks or liver, cervical and breast cancer are increased (  

You aren't even supposed to take the pill if you are a smoker (I am not) over the age of 35 (I am) because of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (  

And that was the end of my taking the pill and the beginning of our NFP journey. 

I wanted to have more kids and my husband was pretty happy with two children.  I wanted three, he wanted two, so we compromised with four.  Once we learned NFP, we used it to as a way of tracking my ovulation for conception, rather than as a prevention method.  It was awesome.  I have very regular cycles and was able to really understand what was going on with my body.  

There are a few different methods of NFP.  We accidentally choose the symptom-thermal method.   For those of you new to NFP this is not the "Rhythm-Method" of early years.  That method used your old cycles to predict future cycles.  The new methods use your own bodies signs and signals to predict.  We fell into the symptom-thermal method because that was what was available to us and I really like it.  In practice, you chart your waking temperature, cervical changes and mucus.  If you slack off in one area (like you miss a temperature or don't chart your cervix for a few days) it isn't the end of the world.  You have the other two signals to fall back on.  If one is out of whack, again you can rely on the other two.

We conceived little Gracie after just a few months and went back to using NFP as a prevention method after she was born.

Sidebar - In Catholic circles, there is some controversy over using NFP with a contraceptive mentality.  Clearly, as new NFP users that was how we started out.   This post is meant as a general introduction to NFP and is not going to get into that controversy. I am also not getting into the theology because I think NFP sells it self on the science alone.   That said,  your comments are welcome below if you want to go that direction.  I would love to hear from you! 

I am have never had fertility issues.  I am blessed.  I have successfully gotten pregnant 5 times and I see my fertility as a GIFT!  Being highly fertile has also made us realize just how effective NFP is as a method of preventing conception.   My mother, also highly fertile, got pregnant 3 times.  Each time she was using a chemical form of contraception.  I do wonder how many MORE children I would have if if used the pill rather than the more effective NFP.

One month, we put NFP effectiveness to the test. As a result we have a beautiful little Anna to love.  Seriously.  We broke the rules. One.  Month.  It was his birthday.  What can I say.  She is the best birthday gift he could ever have.  

Which leads me to the part that I really love about NFP.  You and your spouse are the ones in control.  Not some chemicals.  You make the decisions after prayerful conversations with God.  You decide month to month (or night to night!) if you are willing to open your lives to God's gift of another little one to love.  And the process of making love is never separated from the possibility of bringing a new life into this world.  If you don't want to conceive, you follow the rules and you won't conceive.   If you do want to grow your family, you follow a separate set of rules, and you may just conceive.  

It is beautiful and natural.  It is hard.  Yes. It is really really hard! Especially when you have a husband and wife who really like spending time together (wink wink).   It takes great self control and amazing communication in a marriage.  But that has helped us grow as a couple and grow as individuals too.  

Thanks for stopping by!

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